Our thesis instructor, after rejecting our proposals, became one of our thesis advisers after we've accepted his suggestion. Every time he's telling us that our proposal doesn't seem like a thesis (in a mocking way), he inserts that we should do the "nobel" method he had discovered in detecting a feature/property in a sample. That's what his previous advisees did. Eventually, somehow against our will, he became our thesis adviser because he's the only one who knows the methodology and because he said that it was his idea.

One of the reasons why he also got us as his advisees is because he wants to submit an international paper (IEEE). He said it to our other thesis adviser.

I mentioned a while ago that his previous advisees applied his "nobel" method. We cited their paper as, let's say, A____ et al. with A being the last name of the student in their group who comes initially if their last names are sorted alphabetically. When we presented our paper to him, he said that it should be his name and not theirs because it was his idea and method.

I am asking this question because he might do it to us too -- claim that our thesis is his. Who shall get the thesis main author credit? If I may be permitted, I'd also like to know how to deal with our adviser who only got us as his advisees because he wants prestige after he claims that our thesis is his.

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    The plural pronouns sound like this is a joint thesis with one or more other students. Is that what's intended? In formal academic writing people sometimes have concerns about using the first person singular too much, and I wonder whether that's what's going on here, but "how to deal with our advisor who only got us as his advisees because..." really sounds plural. Feb 24, 2015 at 15:35
  • If I get it correctly, you are using a method introduced by your co-advisor in your work. In the paper that you are preparing you are citing A's thesis as a reference for this method as this thesis applies the method. If your advisor's method is actually a published result, then he is correct: you should cite that instead. As a rule of thumb, if you use a concept in your work, you always cite the work that introduced a novel result or concept, and that wasn't A's thesis.
    – DCTLib
    Feb 24, 2015 at 15:36
  • @AnonymousMathematician Is it okay for undergrads to ask on Academia.SE? In our uni, our undergrad thesis group comprises of three students.
    – ellekaie
    Feb 24, 2015 at 15:38
  • @DCTLib Our adviser didn't publish a paper regarding that method though. He said that he discovered it with his previous advisees (but claims at times that he's the one who discovered it).
    – ellekaie
    Feb 24, 2015 at 15:41
  • Interesting, I was imagining an individual project, but the question is equally valid either way. The typical focus here is graduate studies, but your question involves the same issues (so I wouldn't consider it off topic personally). The main difference is that a Ph.D. thesis is required to include innovative content, while an undergraduate thesis might but could also be more expository or work out other people's ideas. This puts you in a more awkward situation since people might be more willing to believe it's really all your advisor's ideas. Feb 24, 2015 at 15:45

1 Answer 1


I am not sure about undergraduate theses, but in graduate school the thesis is almost always (at least formally) an individual effort, and the student's name is the first and only name on the thesis itself. However, when that thesis is revised into a paper for submission to a conference or a journal, it is acceptable to acknowledge one's advisor (and possibly other committee members) as 2nd/3rd/etc. authors. In some cases where an advisor makes a more significant contribution than the student to the revised paper that is being submitted for publication (e.g. time/effort), their name can be first.

For undergraduate theses, I would guess that the students' names should appear first and advisor's name should appear last, if the thesis is not published but merely submitted to the university to fulfill the graduation requirements. However, when that thesis is revised for publication, the same rule as for graduate papers applies - if the advisor actually contributed more, their name can go first. Experienced, well respected faculty with tenure are not concerned with pushing their name, so more often than not they allow students to go ahead of them on the author list.

Finally, having your advisor go first on a revised thesis submitted to a conference or a journal may not be a bad idea, if your names are still on that paper. This still provides you acknowledgement for academic research and publication activity, so I would not worry too much if your name goes first or second or third.

It is an early effort in your research career, which will be superseded by more serious research work that you will do. Rather than straining your relationship with advisor, it may be wise to let it go and instead make sure that you remain on positive terms, as he/she may be writing recommendation letters for you... ;)

Good luck!

  • The one that he's claiming to be his (I mentioned it in the post) was not published as an international paper.
    – ellekaie
    Feb 25, 2015 at 2:04
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    Indeed...sometimes one has to lose a battle to win a war...long-term perspective really helps when considering options for what to do in the short term :) I find that often the people we work with can have significant impact on our life and work even -- and sometimes especially -- after our formal association with them runs its course. Coursework, jobs, degrees are all temporary, but people's attitudes can be formed over a single sentence said or an action that takes seconds, but last a lifetime. Best wishes.
    – A.S
    Feb 25, 2015 at 14:01

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